Tuesday, January 7, 2020

It's Easy to Forget to Be Proud of Yourself: A Lesson from 2019 & Little Women by Joy Preble

There's this moment in Greta Gerwig's new version of Little Women where Jo has stopped writing. Life and family have gotten in the way. So have negative comments from editors (well, one editor but that's enough) who want to re-form Jo's stories into what they perceive as reader expectation. The heroine needs to get married at the end... or die. Even headstrong, brilliant, talented Jo March seems to forget how much she's accomplished, how proud she should be of all that she's done.

If there's one thing I've learned in 2019 that I am now bringing to the table each day I sit down to write, it's that I am worthy of that writer's chair. It's easy to forget. Someone always seems quicker and newer and louder and shinier. It's easy to forget my own shine. Easy to forget how proud I should be of seven books published when there's always someone on Twitter going on and on about dozens of projects and months of touring and oh how rough it all is to be so wonderful and hit all those word counts. All that shiny nonsense about how you have to write a book before this age or that age or you have to be on this list or that list or whatever.... It's so easy to give in to all that silly noise.

2019 taught me that sometimes, it's enough to be less. To step back. To make it about someone else. To let it go. (with all due respects to that song from Frozen)

2020 is time to take it back.

Always since I was eight and first read the book, the scene that made me cry in Little Women was Beth's death. If you don't know the story-- as I discovered the other that one of our bookstore customers did not and ruined it for her--forget I said that last part. If you do know that story, please know that at eight I never even finished the book for years after Alcott took Beth away from me.

In Gerwig's version, that's not what made me weep. Oh, it was sad, but inevitable. Instead, I came undone as Jo watches her book (these stories of domestic life and struggle that become Little Women)  being made. From the printing press letters locking into place to the pages being sewn together to the hide tanned into leather for a cover, to holding it in her hands and knowing its hers. That she wrote it, owned it, fought for its existence. Most reviewers don't even mention this. But most every writer I know, found it deeply moving.

So here you go: I am someone who had a large life before I decided I was supposed to be writing. Teaching and mothering and doing so many things. Then I fought for this new thing, this writing thing, because I knew it was part of my most authentic, deepest self. My people were there waiting for me. My words were waiting. But I had to put things on pause for a bit to remember that this, too, was me.





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